Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
January 13, 2012

Kiss Your “As” Goodbye!

Margie Lawson

A heartfelt THANK YOU to Laura Drake for inviting me to be her guest today!

The title should read: Kiss Some of Your “As”s Goodbye. But including the words, some of, diluted the power. No way I’d opt to dilute power.

If you’ve taken my Big Three writing craft courses, you know how to analyze and add power to a sentence and a scene. If you took my craft courses before 2011, you may not know about what I call the Pesky As Construction.

But there are times when “as” makes me smile. “As” is welcome when it represents “like.”  It’s also welcome when used as a comparison. It’s as sweet as agave.

A few positive “as” examples from multi-Margie-grads.

Debbie Kaufman, The Doctor’s Mission, 2011

Hannah Jansen was as plump and well-rounded as her husband was spare.

Julie Rowe, Icebound, 2011

The first step forward surprised her; she didn’t sink into the snow, the white stuff was as firm as concrete.

Robin Perini, In Her Sights, 2011

Face to face with her past, and she was just as ignorant now, as she had been then.

 Darynda Jones, Third Grave Dead Ahead, to be released January 31, 2012

I didn’t have the energy to argue with him. The pain leached it out of me as fast as my body could produce it.

Okay. Time to switch to when “as” is pesky on the page.

There are two ways “as” is used that do not make me smile.

“As” is less desirable on the page:

  1.  When it connotes simultaneity
  2.   When it spotlights a stimulus/response reversal

I’ll clarify.  🙂

Simultaneity on the Page:

Dwight Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer, cautioned writers about simultaneity, things happening at the same time. He recommended having “A” happen, then “B.”

Having one event follow another, is a smoother read. A more direct read.

Readers read linearly. They read one thing happening then another. It’s a cognitive speedbump to adjust thinking to accommodate things happening simultaneously. 

I’m not saying to never have things happen simultaneously.

I am recommending checking your manuscript for simultaneity, and deciding if you want to keep it or change it.

I’ll share an example from Writers in the Storm’s Laura Drake.

That’s multi-Margie-grad Laura Drake.

Also, recently contracted Laura Drake!


Laura is currently taking one of my online classes, Fab 30: Advanced Deep Editing. Here’s an example she posted in class.


A clock ticked in her head, matching the cadence of her feet as she pounded through the barn.


She pounded through the barn. The clock ticking in her head matched the cadence of her feet.

Laura added this comment: Like the fix better - ups the tension.

I agree. Nixing the simultaneous action, and making it two sentences, made it much stronger.

BLOG GUESTS:  Please read both versions out loud. Here they are again:


A clock ticked in her head, matching the cadence of her feet as she pounded through the barn.


She pounded through the barn. The clock ticking in her head matched the cadence of her feet.

Hear the difference?

The AFTER has a stronger cadence. It carries more tension. It is a more compelling read.

Here’s a common “as” structure that connotes simultaneity.

As I flicked on the light, he tackled me.

What’s stronger?

I flicked on the light. (Here – show someone coming at him, knocking him down.)

Stimulus Response Reversals:

Sometime “as” spotlights a stimulus/response reversal. The response is in front of the stimulus.

When “as” spotlights that the RESPONSE is in front of the STIMULUS, most of the time I recommend flipping it, so the stimulus presents first.

A common example: She turned toward the door as she heard a knock.

The knock happens first.

There may be a compelling reason for leaving a sentence with the response presenting first. If so, no worries.

Do you need to nix every AS?


When “as” is used as a comparison or as “like,” it works well. It’s a sweet “as.”

I recommend doing a FIND on “as” (space bar, as, space bar) and seeing how many you have in your full manuscript. Check them.

Nixing any “as” that connotes simultaneity or spotlights a stimulus/response reversal is likely to make the read stronger.

I hope you’re willing to kiss your as goodbye!

POST A COMMENT – AND YOU MAY WIN a Lecture Packet or an online course by Margie Lawson, or Tiffany Lawson Inman, from Lawson Writer’s Academy!

Online Classes offered by Lawson Writer's Academy in February:

1. Taking a Book from Good to Sold, by Shirley Jump

2. Kills, Chills, and Thrills: Writing the Thriller Novel, by C.J. Lyons

3. Taming WordPress: Create and Maintain Bolgs and Websites, by Tamela Buhrke

4. Platforms Aren't Shoes.  Start Marketing BEFORE You Finish That Book, by Tamela Buhrke

5. The Triple Threat Behind Staging a Scene:  An Actor's Take on Writing Physicality, Choreography, and Action, by Tiffany Lawson Inman

6. Empowering Characters' Emotions, by Margie Lawson

I’ll post the winner’s name tonight, 9PM Mountain Time.

Thank you again!

Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, editor, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques used by writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.

Thousands of writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last seven years, she presented over sixty full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

For more information on Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, full day master classes, and the 5-day Immersion Master Class sessions offered in her Colorado mountain-top home, visit:  www.MargieLawson.com.

0 comments on “Kiss Your “As” Goodbye!”

  1. Margie,
    While revising my manuscript, I've encountered several "empty" words, which bogged down my pacing and ultimately my story. Thanks for sharing a wonderful post on how to make every word count!

  2. Margie! There isn't a class of yours I haven't already taken, and I already WON (happy dance) a Tiffany Lawson Inman class.

    I'll email you privately about FAB30. April is the next one, right?

    "As" holds a spot on my search-and-destroy list for edits, and I now get a brain twitch anytime I type that word. The scene becomes MUCH more powerful without that pesky winky word.

    Congrats (again) Laura on your AWESOME book deal. Margie Grads make history again.

    Whoop! MUST get my Margie Grad badge on my blog.

    1. Gloria -
      What? No reaction to KISS YOUR AS GOODBYE? 🙂

      It is amazing how nixing that PESKY AS, opens opportunities to improve the sentence and paragraph in multiple ways.

      I am THRILLED for Immersion Grad (and uber-cool friend) Laura!

      Gloria -- You may be the next Margie Grad to nail a contract!

  3. Excellent post Margie. I will add "as" to my edit check list.

    Congratulations, Laura. I am so excited about your book deal. It is so nice to know that hard work really does pay.

  4. But-- but-- but I LOVE my as, don't I, Margie? 😉 Sigh, fine. Removing the pesky ones is something I'm working on... And congrats, Laura, on the book deal!! So excited for you.

    1. Hey Kimberle!

      You do love your AS!
      Some are easy to love. Glad you'll nix those pesky ones.

      Looking forward to working with you in ADVANCED IMMERSION!

      You could be the next Margie Grad to get THE CALL!

  5. As one of those students who Margie has to continually red-line (my "as's"), I appreciate her comments here!! She's the best. And I now get an electrical brain shock each time I find myself denoting simultaneity by that pesky word...or at least ALMOST every time.

    1. Hugs to Critique Sister Jeanne!

      You're THE BEST!

      I'm soooo proud of your writing success! You have seven Anna Strong books out garnering amazing accolades. Kudos to you!

  6. I use the "bad" form of As all the time! Thanks for the post. This should really help tighten my writing. Anything that can add tension and suspense to my mystery is more than welcome. Thanks, Margie.

    1. Heather --

      Yay! So glad you'll kiss that Pesky As Construction goodbye!

      FYI: My writing craft courses are loaded with writing tips and techniques to add power. Loaded-- as in 350+ pages of lectures and examples per course. 🙂

  7. Hi Margie,
    As I write, I think ... whoa ... I think. I write. ;o)

    I get real inspiration every time I read some of your suggestions. I've taken many of your classes including a live master class.


    1. Hello Anonymous Olderwriter!

      You've taken my online classes and attended a live master class. You're ready for IMMERSION MASTER CLASS at my home in Colorado.

      Laura Drake immersed last year. See what it did for her? 😉

      Thanks for chiming in!

  8. Margie:

    I was gong to say I was finding bad as'es AS I type, but that would be a cliche.

    Thanks for this thought, and revision-provoking post. I will apply what I've just learned to my manuscript post-haste.

    Cheers, Liz
    Elizabeth Essex

  9. Laura, add my congratulations and WOOTs to the mix.

    Margie, it amazes me what a difference thinking makes in my writing. Thank you for the countless lessons in thinking!

    Hope to spend more time warming in the rays of your wisdom as a dog warms in the sun in February. Okay, not my best as...

    1. Sherry --

      THINKING is under-utilized. 😉

      But with your creative brain, when you turn it on max power, you could get a book of your short stories published. And you did! STORYTELLER

      Blog Guests: If you have a few free minutes, check out examples from Sherry Isaac's book of short stories on my Pubbed Margie Grad Blog:

      I love it when my Immersion Grads get published!

  10. Ah, Fab 30 is in April? Hmm, I desperately need a break. But I think I'm in need of another Margie fix. Oh the dilemma! Sounds like you've definitely got some new tricks up your sleeve, Margie. And I hear if you go up to Margie's you may get a double bonus, Tiffany as well as Margie! A two editor bonus! Great article, now I need to ad 'as' to my search and destroy list.

    1. Jessica --

      Yes -- to my new deep editing tips!

      Yes -- to Tiffany Lawson Inman, my brilliant actor/ editor daughter working with writers in Immersion class too!

      I'd love to work with you online in Fab 30: Advanced Deep Editing in April.

      And -- Hope you join Joan Swan and (hopefully) Sherry and Gloria in an Advanced Immersion Master Class in May!

      See you at the CRW meeting tomorrow. 🙂

    1. Sherry --

      The next Fab 30: Advanced Deep Editing is in April.
      Enrollment is limited to 30.

      Hope, hope, hope to see you IN PERSON -- immersing on the mountain with Joan and Jessie and Gloria in May!

  11. Margie!
    I will see you in Empowering Characters Emotions. It will be my third LWA class, but my first with you. Gloria Richard hooked me up with your site. Love it! I am looking forward to taking a lot of classes with you this year.I learned the "as" rule recently and it has made my writing so much stronger. I am passing this post on to the writers I coach.

    You know what LWA needs now? A kick-butt class on rocking the query and synopsis!

    1. Lori - Laura, butting in here. Aside from Deep Edits, ECE was the BEST class I took from Margie (not counting 'going to the mountain'.)

      It warp-speeded my writing to a new level. I'd pick that one next.

      Oh, and I vote for a class on Plotting!

      1. Laura --

        Thank you!

        Yikes! You missed STORY STRUCTURE SAFARI. Lisa Miller taught it for LWA in September. A phenomenal course! She's teaching it again in April. Yay!

    2. Lori --

      Yay! I'll get to work with you in ECE class -- starting in 19 days!

      Ah -- You're an LWA fan. Cool!

      I'm lining up a kick-butt class for LWA on writing queries. Hope to get it on the schedule in March. 🙂

      See you in ECE!

  12. As I read your post, I cringed. 🙂 Going to my new ms now to search "as" with one eye open... it's going to be ugly!

    Thanks, Margie, for ALWAYS putting my head back in my story!

    REALLY hope to see you soon!

      1. I loved Flawless! Actually bought it for my daughter. She loved it too and is really hoping a cute boy starts her school this year (she actually said that :))

  13. I love reading these easy to fix editing issues and learning how to fix them for a better read. I'm currently reading Dwight Swain's book and LOVE it so far. I think I have a pack of sticky notes already sticking out of the pages along with some highlighted passages. It's a wealth of information. Reading your "layman's" versions solidifies the lessons. Thank you for your lessons! I look forward to ECE in February!

    1. Claire --

      Great to see you here!

      Dwight Swain is brilliant! Glad you are IMMERSED in Swain's brain.

      FYI: Swain's brain -- rhetorical device -- assonance -- rhyming vowel sounds 😉

      Can't wait to work with you in ECE next month. FUN WORK!

  14. Florence in the City (aka ramblingsfromtheleft.wordpress) awarded Laura Drake a versatile blogger award today. I clicked to follow Laura and found another wonderful surprise. Thank you, Margie, for these points. They're exactly the kick in the 'as' I needed to get back to writing.

  15. Dear Margie,
    Thank you. I'm working my way through your class handouts ... you are with me every day and now AS I work I will be also thinking about my As'. Thanks a lot!

    1. Jacki -

      Ah -- You ordered a Lecture Packet. ECE has 350+ pages -- and Deep Editing has over 400 pages now. Hope to see you in one of my courses sometime.

      Glad you're digging deep and working hard. Good for you!

  16. Love the post Margie. Every time I take one of your classes I learn something new. I have so many duh moments, i'm surprised my jaw hasn't fallen off its hinges!
    See you in class!

  17. I'm having flashbacks to my editors comments. The before and after examples are very helpful. I'm off to search for as, as I think there are more that meet the simultaneous definition. Great post.
    Amazing how there is always something else to improve upon.


    1. Jean --
      Glad you like my teaching style. Examples -- and Befores and Afters -- put info on the shelves in your brain. I like stocking brain shelves. 😉

      This blog is a taste of my online classes smorgasbord.

      Random Note: I just learned, smorgasbord does not have an A. It's so wrong!

      Jean -- Thanks for letting me know my blog was helpful.

  18. What a great blog. I'm going to search for my as's and lose them where I need to. I already know just from the examples that Margie gives that I have several that need to be fixed. Thanks Laura for having Margie. She never disappoints.

  19. oh-ho-ho-ho....I'm a HUGE simultaneous "AS" writer. It's my first draft / brain dump crutch phrase. I know that. What I'm no longer confident of is whether I "fix" all those instances on revision. Gotta go add that one on my personal watch list. Thanks, Margie!

  20. Thanks for the reminder. I've been slipping a bit. I'll go search my WIP. I'm a multi-Margie class grad. (and it's about time for another one!)

    The classes for February look great. I'll have to check that out 🙂

    Thanks for all you do, Margie!

  21. This blog comes at the perfect time for me. I'm editing my manuscript and know about as/like, but never thought about things happening simultaneously. I'm adding another word to my editing list. Thanks Margie & Laura!

    1. Bonnie - this is nothing! You should take Margie's Deep Edits course - or at least get the packet. My problem with editing was I was in love with my writing (yeah, embarrassing, I know) and I could NOT see what was wrong for the life of me (cliche alert!) Her system allowed me to back off from the writing, and SEE it!

    2. Hello Bonnie --

      Glad you'll check your WIP for those Pesky As Constructions.

      Remember -- it's not just simultaneity. Watch out for stimulus/response reversals too.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  22. Dear Margie,
    I'm so grateful for its simple but effective wisdom. Well before the start of the New Year, I set the intention to be open to receiving inspiration and guidance everyday. I've noticed that the more I expect to recieve inspiration, the more it shows up, often in unexpected ways. Being inspired early in the day is the best because it set the tone for the rest of the day. Thanks for the great guidance!

  23. I really appreciate knowing this. I'm going to go back and check my MS for those pesky 'AS'. So what have I learned? No sighing, no turing and no 'AS'. What else do I need to watch for? I really like this blog!!! Thanks for the help.

  24. Good grief, this is amazing Margie. I truly wish I could take some of the classes listed on this post.
    I created a small chub book where I list the words I over-use ... like what I call the "absolutes: ... never, ever, always, almost, nearly. While I strolled ... As I strolled ... darn ... I strolled 🙂 It takes hours to find repetitious and over used words and even after three edits I'll find one of the little suckers clinging desparetly for life. Out damn spot, stain, mess of it all! Thanks, and especially thanks for all the comments 🙂

    1. Hello Ramblings --

      I'm teaching Empowering Characters' Emotions online in February. It's the first in my BIG Three writing craft courses.
      Hope to see you in a class sometime!

  25. As Sherry said: Margie, it amazes me what a difference thinking makes in my writing. Thank you for the countless lessons in thinking!

    I heartily agree! Now when I'm editing, I ask myself, "What would Margie do with this?" If my answer is "cut it," I cut it! I still haven't taken a Tiffany class. I'll have to do that.


    1. Barb --
      Good for you! Glad you channel me. 🙂

      Yes! You'd be SMART, SMART, SMART to take a Tiffany class.

      She's teaching THE TRIPLE THREAT BEHIND STAGING A SCENE -- in February. She'll work you hard too!

  26. Hey Margie 😉

    As, as in the similie kind, is my friend. Sometimes too much. I have to split "like" and "as" 50/50, then go back through and find every way I can to change it to a stealth similie so the reader doesn't even know I pulled a fast one on them ;). Is there a Margie term for those? Sometimes by just leaving out a word or clipping, NYT authors get away with it.

    I can't wait for CJ Lyons's class. AND I'm late for this fab 30 but will catch the next one. I have an old manu opening that is minty clean and ready for fabulousness and immortality.

    Margie=Bad As Writing Coach 🙂

    1. Laura --

      Miss you, miss you, miss you!

      Ah -- You're taking CJ's Writing Thriller Novels course. Excellent!

      Still miss you. 🙂

      Look forward to seeing you in Fab 30 in April.

  27. This post as extrmely helpful. The illustrations made me realize how much stronger the writing was given the use as suggested. I'm searching all my use of as to make corrections.

    Thanks a bunch!

  28. Wow! I took your advice and used the "find" method to search for "as" in my documents. In the first fourteen pages I found 5 cases where modification made the sentence stronger. In some cases, splitting the sentence up made the writing stronger. In other cases, I had to completely rewrite but with improved results! I'd have to say this was singularly the best advice I've gotten from a writing blog in the last year.

    Thanks ever so much!

    1. Lorraine - if you've never taken a course from Margie, you cannot imagine what you're missing! If you're editing - I'd recommend her Deep Edits class. If you're writing, try Empowering Character's Emotions.

      I swear she's not paying me to say this - I've sold because of the changes her classes made in my writing.

    2. Lorraine --
      Good for you for doing a FIND on "as."
      Thank you for sharing how you fixed your as's!
      And -- Keep in mind, I created dozens of deep editing tips and techniques and systems. Check out my writing craft classes offered through Lawson Writer's Academy.

      THANK YOU!

  29. I am forever writing sentences like: She turned toward the door as she heard the knock. While I recognize they're wrong and try to go back and fix them, I never thought to do a word search on "as". What a great suggestion, Margie. Thanks for the wonderful post!

    1. Sheila --
      I think you attended my full day master class in Minneapolis. Right?

      I could be picturing you in a different group. I presented full day master classes in ten cities last year. 😉

      Glad you liked the blog!

      Hope to see you in person again sometime. Going to RWA National?

  30. As I expected, your as blog was excellent. (sorry couldn't help myself) Truly loved your asing it up here, and have taken this to include that pesky simultaneous beginning ing construct. thanks for keeping us thinking.

  31. Great post. I hope to take one of your official classes soon. Thanks for the fantastic information.

  32. Hi Margie! I talked about you today … all good of course! What a great post. I'm almost afraid to do a find on my 'as' for fear of as-abuse. 😉 But I will. Thanks for the great examples.

    1. Hey Multi-Margie-Grad Ginger!

      Thank you! Wish I'd been wherever you talked about me. 😉
      Hope to see you at National this year. If you're going, let's plan when to meet!

  33. This will be such a help as I am doing my first edit of my manuscript. Thank you for such a clear post that easily explains which 'as' is good and which is an ass 😉

    1. Hey Neecy!
      Ah -- THANK YOU! You are suh-weet!
      Look forward to working with you in another class. Check out Fab 30: Advanced Deep Editing, in April. Enrollment is limited to 30. I deep edit 30 pages for each class member. 🙂

  34. Boy, ya start talking about "as"s and EVERYBODY gets in on the conversation! 🙂

    I will have to think of something just AS clever for my post on the 20th.

    Hmmmmmmm body parts, fiction, editing, body parts, fiction, editing...I'm SURE to whip something fantastic up for you folks!

    Thanks, mom, for raising the bar!

    1. Tiffany --

      No worries about you having to work hard to think of something CLEVER for your blog post on Friday. 😉

      Thanks for always clearing the bar!

  35. OMG, Margie...I have GOT to get back to my fiction so I can start getting some more Lawson/Inman influence into my writing. I am positive that if I ran a search, I'd find that I have an AS problem. Dang.

    However, I WILL/MUST/HAVE TO finish the high-risk/high worry pregnancy memoir first!!

    1. Jenny --

      I know your high-risk, high worry pregnancy memoir will be fabulous!
      And - I'm betting you'll check your nonfiction for that pesky "as" construction too. 😉

      I'm looking forward to being on your MORE COWBELL BLOG on Thursday!

  36. Hi, Margie.
    After taking your classes, not only do I constantly wonder "Does my as look wrong in this sentence?" but also "And how many sentences start with 'and'?"


  37. Hi Margie!
    I had to study on some of your examples, but I think I've got it now! You do a great job of making it nice and simple to understand when it works, and when it doesn't. I know - next is when to use "it" and not use it. 🙂

  38. Hello Everyone!

    Wow! Great to see so many new faces, and faces I know too.
    Thank you for being here today.

    I used random.org to select the name of the winner.

    AND THE WINNER IS . . . . . . . . . . . . JEAN MURRAY!


    Jean: Please email me (margie @ margielawson . com) to coordinate your free online course from Lawson Writer's Academy.

    BLOG GUESTS: If I didn't reply to your comment yet, I will!

    Please drop by my web site and check out the upcoming courses offered by Lawson Writer's Academy. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.


  39. Good to know my ‘as’s are in the right place. 

    You can’t go wrong with Margie’s classes. It was her edit class that helped me get ICEBOUND into publishable shape.

    Thanks bunches Margie!

    1. Julie --

      I loved ICEBOUND. Fresh writing. Stellar cadence. Strong visceral responses. Great body language.

      You earned an A+ in Deep Editing. 🙂

      Kudos to your brain and your writing!

  40. Oy! I missed the giveaway. Oh well, that won't keep me away from Margie's amazing classes! 😀 I'm already attending my second class this month over at her Academy and I'm eyeballing the April class too!

    Loved this lesson, Margie. You had me at the title to this post. Don't we all wish we could "kiss our as goodbye"? LOL

    Thanks for sharing and as always you make things sound utterly doable.


    1. Kerri --

      So fun to see you here! I enjoy seeing you in my classes too.
      Deep Editing is utterly doable. 🙂
      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your humor and commitment to strengthening your writing craft.

  41. I've notice that I use the bad type of "as" too often and I know its bad when I do it, but I'm still on a first draft. Thanks for showing an example of how to fix this. 🙂 I will keep it in mind when writing from now on.

  42. Sorry I'm late!!! I was out of town. I still need to work on this. I know I use as too much, but seeing your before and after examples here, Margie, has helped.

    Thanks again! ~D~

    1. Darynda --

      Thanks for racing to the blog. Hope your out of town trip was big time fun!

      I always enjoy using your examples. Only two more weeks until THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD will be released!

      So glad the Before and After examples worked for you. Always good to check your as's!

  43. As usual, great info, clearly presented and easy to incorporate into my writing habits. Thank you for such a wonderful blog.

  44. I can't believe I am just finding this blog, I'll need to look through the previous posts later.
    In regards to 'as' in simultaneity, I was wondering if sticking 'and' in there is just as bad, or worse - or just okay in small doses - compared to 'as'. For example "She pounded through the barn and the clock ticking in her head matched the cadence of her feet."

  45. This is very interesting. As a reader, I actually like the flow of the first sentence better, but the reasoning behind the change makes complete sense. Going through my writing to check this out!

  46. What a great article! I think I picked up the "as" habit in high school English, where my great English teacher had us condensing long paragraphs into short ones. I always won, by using space saving words like "as". But writing fiction isn't composition writing for English teachers! Must remind myself of that every day!

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